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Alaskan Brewing Company

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Day 8: Juneau and The Alaskan Brewing Company


The tasting room at Alaskan Brewing Co.

Juneau, the capital of Alaska and home to about 31,000 residents. I’m excited to tour Juneau, a place only accessible by boat or plane, so it must be special. But, I must confess part of the reason I’m really excited to be in Juneau is because it’s home to the Alaskan Brewing Company. I’ve been excited about Juneau since my first Alaskan Amber in Fairbanks the day we landed in this great state.

Unfortunately, the day dawns cool and wet…again, and we’ve all succumb to the curse of the cruise ship – the common cold, but we rally to pull ourselves together and see some of this capital city. We bundle in our rain gear and disembark. Along with touring the brewery, I’ve planned to check out the Alaskan State Museum, which I find out is closed until 2016. That leaves us with town and the brewery.

At one end of Franklin Street, the main street in town, are the commercial cruise shops – jewelry stores and souvenir shops that are kitschy and over-priced, but a few steps up takes you to a more authentic collection of shops and taverns.

I stop in at the Alaskan Brewing Company’s downtown depot to pick up a few souvenirs and get information on the afternoon tours. And then, with an hour to kill before the shuttle to the brewery, we have time to sample some fudge from the Alaskan Fudge Company, take in the work of local artisans Allie High and Lisa Moore at Changing Tides gift shop, and pick up toys for my nephews at Imagination Station.


Lisa Moore’s ‘Quilts With a Twist’


Allie High’s beautiful and unique graphic prints.

By now, we’re thirsty and it’s time to board the Liquid Alaska Shuttle that will take us the 10 minutes outside of town to the brewery. Rob, our driver gives us a good overview of Juneau along the way. The city’s main industries are government, tourism, fishing and mining.


Arriving for our tour at Alaskan Brewing Co.

Rob comments on the weather, saying Summer is 54 degrees and rainy, and winter is 44 degrees and rainy… He follows this up with a couple of facts on the cost of living. Since everything has to be sent by barge to Juneau, a gallon of milk is over $5 and a loaf of bread is $7. A one-bedroom will set you back $1200 in rent. I’m not sold on Juneau, but we haven’t got to the brewery yet…

Rob drops us outside the doors of the Alaskan Brewing Company and we’re shuffled into a tasting room by John who will be our guide for the next 30 minutes. John, a Rhode Island native, starts by pouring us a sample of Alaskan Amber, and delves into a history of the brewery, interspersing the brewery’s history with important facts about the actual brewing process.

The brewery officially opened in 1986, with Alaskan Amber as its flagship beer. From then on, the founders Geoff and Marcy went on to revolutionize the brewing process, finding ways to use the CO2 emitted from brewing as energy for packaging and removing the oxygen from beer, eliminating the need for any additional CO2. They call this “beer powered beer.”


The flavors of Alaskan Brewing Co.

They are also the first brewery to use a special Mash Filter Press, which enables them to save 2 million gallons of water every year. So not only does their beer taste good, they’re constantly striving to find ways to make their production process more environmentally friendly. I feel less guilty about the next five samples already.

After a sample of Alaskan White and Free Ride IPA and some more history from John, we’re set free in the gift shop and tasting room. Here I meet Kenn, another east coast transplant who has lived in Juneau for 20 years. He spends the summers working at the brewery and the winters leading kayaking trips in Argentina.

Kenn is generous with the samples and I follow up the samples from the tour with a pumpkin ale, a marzen, a stout and lastly, a smoked porter, which they say is an acquired taste. I’ll agree with them on this one.


Alaskan’s draught selections.

After refraining from any more purchases in the gift shop, we thank the team at Alaskan Brewery and dodge the heavy rain as we climb back into the shuttle for our journey back into town.

With the weather getting increasingly worse, we head straight back to the ship. My cold has taken full effect and the generous beer samples are making me sleepy. I crawl into bed for a late afternoon nap, wondering what Ketchikan has in store for us tomorrow.